Reduced shipments have relieved some downward pressure on fresh vegetable prices from earlier in 2012, although prices for most vegetables still remain below levels from the previous year, according to the latest USDA Vegetables and Melons Outlook.
Despite a much drier summer season, the volume of fresh vegetables remains higher than it did for the corresponding period in 2011.
There were reports of reduced summer plantings in response to low prices, and the July shipment volume of many fresh vegetables eased from highs of the previous month and earlier 2012. Total U.S. planted onion acreage declined almost 4 percent between 2011 and 2012.
Average April to June 2012 prices for broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, celery and field tomatoes are all at least 25 percent below the previous year. Still, the second quarter price index for all vegetables was more than 30 percent higher than first quarter 2012, with only asparagus, celery, sweet corn, and snap bean grower prices below averages from earlier this year.
Overall volume of fresh vegetables was down 17 percent between June and July 2012. Based on prices reported to date for third quarter 2012, projections are for a slow increase in the overall vegetable grower price index driven by relatively sharp price increases for some commodities and more modest decreases in others.
Shipment volume remains high in herbs, Chinese cabbage, chile peppers, and Roma tomatoes (field-grown), where July 2012 totals were up over both the previous month and July 2011. As temperatures began to cool in September, conditions improved for fall vegetables.
The CPI for potatoes, tomatoes, and other vegetables continued to decline in August over July reports. Despite a month-over-month increase in CPI for lettuce, August 2012 saw the retail price index for tomatoes almost 5 percent below the previous year and the index for lettuce down 2.5 percent.
During the first eight months of 2012, consumer prices for fresh vegetables were down for almost all commodities when compared to the same period in 2011 (based on average retail advertised prices).
Price offerings for round field-grown, Roma (plum type), on-the-vine, and grape tomatoes remain 10 to 15 percent below the previous year. Advertised retail prices for lettuce were 7 to 9 percent lower, while pepper, cucumber, and celery prices were down approximately 5 percent.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, during the first seven months of 2012, the volume of all fresh-market vegetable imports rose 5 percent over the same period a year earlier.
On the export side, 2012 U.S. fresh vegetable export volume through July increased 3 percent, continuing a modest growth trend from the previous year.
Fresh produce exports were mostly steady when compared with the previous year.
An exception was fresh broccoli, where levels rebounded from 2011 lows.